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A gastric emptying study often is used when there is a suspicion that there is an abnormally delayed emptying of food from the stomach, medically called delayed gastric emptying.
Delayed gastric emptying most commonly gives rise to abdominal discomfort after meals , nausea and vomiting.
A patient eats a meal in which the solid component of the meal (for example, scrambled eggs), the liquid component of the meal (for example, water), or both, are mixed with a small amount of radioactive material. A scanner is placed over the patient's stomach to monitor the amount of radioactivity in the stomach for several hours after the meal is eaten.
As the radioactively-labeled food empties from the stomach, the amount of radioactivity decreases. The rate at which the radioactivity leaves the stomach reflects the rate at which the food is emptying from the stomach.